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This past weekend I had the opportunity to rent both the NEC LT150 and VT540 projectors for trial in my home theater. I know the LT150 is discontinued and is in very limited supply in Canada so I wanted to check out this unit before I lost my chance to buy one.


This is a report of my findings and opinions. Please understand that these views are based on my own personal tastes and likes. Both units are excellent products and I’m certain the owners of each are very happy with their decision.


I unfortunately do not have a HTPC at this time. It may be a future investment, but for my testing I purchased a JVC XV-S60BK which is their new progressive scan DVD player based on their XV-D721BK. Both DVD players received very good reviews from a number of sources.


My theater has very good light control, medium brown walls and floor, and a white tile drop ceiling. The ceiling was the biggest problem and one I will have to deal with later. My screen was a sheet of white cotton with little or no glare or sheen. The screen was 80†across for 16:9 content. Viewing distance was 12’ to 14’.


DVD content included the following; Toy Story 2 (for colors), Star Trek Insurrection (for the opening scene – interlacing vs progressive scan), Lost in Space (dark scenes and special affects), Armageddon (special effects), Gladiator (dark scenes), and other DVDs not worth mentioning.


I constructed a cable to connect the component video from the DVD player to the projector.


In general both projectors perform very well with the progressive scan player, however, I would not say excellent. I will explain later.


Here are points I noted:


Cost; At this time the VT540 is selling about $1000CAN more than the LT150. Something to consider in the decision. Both are reasonably priced in my opinion.


Contrast; LT150 definitely had better contrast. This should come as no surprise. I did determine that I could live with the contrast of the VT540.


Color; VT540 had more vibrate colors than the LT150. Again, I could live with the LT150 colors; they were very true on all DVDs tested. The colors of the VT540 gave an excellent impact to Toy Story 2.


Rainbows with LT150; Very noticeable on certain scenes in Gladiator and Lost in Space (dark scenes with some light objects). Not so noticeable on most other content. Something I think I can live with, however, I believe I began to suffer a small amount of eye fatigue caused by rainbows while watching Gladiator. I would be more concerned about how others might be affected by rainbows since there will be more than me using the theater.


Screendoor; At first I was confusing screendoor with scaling artifacts (explained later). The LT150 had no visible screendoor at 12’ or 14’ from the 80†width screen. The VT540 had some noticeable screendoor on solid bright colors, but not bad enough for me to reject; it’s something I could live with.


Halo; Very noticeable halo with the LT150. No real halo (except for the grey top and bottom bars) with the VT540. I honestly have to say that the LT150 halo was actually distracting at times. I could see myself installing dark masks if I were to select that unit.


Dust blob; The VT540 had this unusual round spot about 1’ in diameter on the 80†screen. It was only noticeable when there was no input and the projector was projecting a totally blank screen. I can only assume it was dust based on descriptions I’ve read on this forum.


Fan noise; Ouch for the LT150. I can see why there is so much discussion about hush boxes for this little unit. I was blown away by the noise when I set the LT150 for ceiling mount. I thought the sound from the films would drown it out, but during quiet scenes I found it very distracting. The VT540 was much more reasonable especially when set to econo mode.


General image brightness. I found the VT540 to product a brighter image than the LT150 even when the VT540 was in econo mode. I guess a high gain screen might improve things with the LT150 as discussed in various places on this forum.


Zoom lens. Very nice feature of the VT540. For a home theater I think it’s a must if the unit is permanently installed. I plan to install my projector fixed on the ceiling.


Bulb life. The advantage that the VT540 has in this area is significant. Its life is three times that of the LT150. This has to be factored in when considering cost differences.


De-interlacing. The difference in picture quality was significant when I switched the player from interlaced to progressive thus proving both units have very poor de-interlacers.


Scaling artifacts. I mentioned earlier that I think I mistook scaling artifacts for screendoor. On both units I could notice jaggies on either diagonal lines (white against dark or dark against white), or on transitions from light to dark (Woody’s eyes in Toy Story 2; the dark pupils against the white of the eyes). It was very distracting on both projectors. In another posting on this forum I had mentioned this problem and thought it may have been caused by the resolution of the projector; the number of pixels were simply not enough to provide a smooth image. However, a few people commented on they forum that they did not see jaggies when they used a HTPC. This probably makes sense because of the analog to digital conversions, however, I cannot pass judgement until I see a HTPC on one of these units myself.


The scaling artifacts (if that is what they are) were the biggest disappointment for me. I am thinking about an HTPC for my theatre, however, I would prefer the DVD player for lower cost and user friendless (family has to use this). Because of the scaling artifacts I will not be taking the plung for either unit at this time until I can see for myself the improvement with an HTPC.


The big question. Which unit would I purchase if the scaling artifacts were not an issue. It’s not an easy one to answer. Both units have their strengths and quirks. However, if the HTPC provides equal improvement in picture quality for both I would have to say I would choose the VT540 even though it’s about $1000CAN more than the LT150. My reasons follow:


1. Bulb life. The increased cost of the VT540 will pay for itself in bulbs after about three years with my viewing habits.

2. Fan noise. Seriously a problem with the LT150. I’m sure a hush box is the answer, however I don’t want the hassle of mounting and installing something else on a nice clean drop ceiling.

3. Zoom lens. There will be some content that I will want to reduce in size on my screen. The VT540’s zoom lens makes it much more versatile. I can see why the new release of the LT150 will have one.

4. Color. Nicer on the VT540 although the LT150’s color is very good.

5. Halo. LT150’s halo was very distracting.


Regarding factors such as rainbow and screendoor. It seems I can live with either. I honestly don’t like screendoor when I can see it, however, from my viewing distance it wasn’t an issue.


Where do I go from here? I hoping to get in-home demonstrations of higher end units from Sanyo, Toshiba, and Sony with the progressive scan DVD player. I am also hoping to see either the LT150 or VT540 with an HTPC; I might be convinced to take the HTPC plunge with the VT540 if the scaling artifacts disappear.


One word of advise to anyone looking for a projector. I personally wouldn’t purchase sight unseen. I would have been very disappointed had I purchased either of these units and coupled it with the DVD player without first trying them in my home first. It’s a big investment and one you will probably have to live with for a while. Many of the reviews on forums such as avsforum are excellent, however, we are all individuals with different tastes and expectations.


In the meantime, I’ll save my money and keep looking.


The opinions expressed in this review are based on my own personal tastes and likes.




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Still looking for that Home Theatre.
 

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Fascinating. Thank you for your detailed review. One additional "feature" of VT540 is dead/stuck pixel(s) now or later :) I think it's basically a personal preference between DLP and LCD. DLP has the 35 mm film like effect (high speed strobe, smooth imaging) while LCD has digital effect (sharp, vibrant colors). If you suffer rainbows, you'd better go with LCD. If you don't go with DLP like me :) I had Sony-VPL CX1 with 200:1 contrast and could stand the poor contrast or dead pixels so I upgraded to LT150.


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Huey ;-]
 

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Good solid review and thanks for taking the time to do it...


Many people can not get to see multiple projectors let alone A / B likely competitors (price bracket) so this kind of thing is really valuable... I would love to hear your comments if you do get a look at a Sanyo as some of the high output light cannons appeal to me...


Lastly without wanting to repeat myself, run to the nearest HTPC demo you can get... Scaling artifacts all but disappear and you will be struggling to find other minute imperfections to obsess about...


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New email [email protected]
HTPC without using windows... GUI Front Ends for Home Theater
 

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I upgraded from the vt540 to the lt150. I agree with some of your comments. But I do want to say that I also thought I could live with the screen door being visible on solid color scenes.


After 6 months I found I couldn't. It was too distracting, so I opted for the lt150. But they're both great projectors.

 

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my impressions pretty much parallel yours as to the LT150. When viewing the VT540 at the dealer side by side with the LT150, I was favouring the VT540 because of the higher lumen, zoom, quietness (big difference) and bulb life.


But I figured I would give the LT150 a try at home because of all the hype going on here, plus they let me take it home for free. The VT540 however, they wanted tol charge me a daily rental rate ($350CDN-OUCH!) to try it out, with the rental fee being used as a credit towards a purchase within 30 days.


I don't read too many posts about eye strain, but I got a good case of it after a couple hours watching the DLP. Rainbows were minimal for me, but the eye strain is fairly intense even as I write this. I look at a computer monitor for 10 hours a day and I don't get near the level of eye strain I got after 2 hours of DLP watching.


The LT150 is definitely a no go for me. Good point about warning people to try before you buy- I'm VERY glad I didn't buy it sight unseen (I was tempted to!!). I really cannot watch it for any length of time. And therein lies the frustration about trying projectors--- companies (at least here in TO) are not really prepared to let you try them, unless you have a good relationship with them or are prepared to drop big bucks on renting them.


I was running the LT150 with a Toshiba non-progressive DVD (S-Video) and it looked pretty crappy. I have to upgrade my home PC to DVD or get a progressive DVD before I can do any more FP trials. Lesson to others- make sure you have a decent source before you try to demo them.


- JP
 

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I can almost guarantee that 90% of your problem is non-progressive scan and s-video. before you dismiss the dlp, try it with a progressive scan feed and from component/vga... I have watched mine for 3-4 hours at a trot on a fairly regular basis with no headaches...


good luck


Miles
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by jpinto
I was running the LT150 with a Toshiba non-progressive DVD (S-Video) and it looked pretty crappy. I have to upgrade my home PC to DVD or get a progressive DVD before I can do any more FP trials. Lesson to others- make sure you have a decent source before you try to demo them.


- JP
First, you have a great name :) Secondly, you have said what I think is the real key with digital projectors. When I first got my vt540 I watched with the straight s-video input. I could tell right away this wasn't going to do it for me. Then I moved up to a dvdo iscan. There was quite an improvement but on many scenes I could see a stairstepping that some may say is screen door and others scaling artifacts. Whatever it was I didn't really like it. Then I added a dvd-rom and Radeon LE video card to a pc to make it a htpc. This was what I was looking for! On a 16:9 110" screen I could see no stairstepping. It was really impressive. For the money I love this setup. I do yearn for better shadow detail which I am sure shows up on the LT150 but since I see rainbows very easily this option is pretty much out.


Have fun!
 

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change the user name anymore... oh well!


I realize that my DVD equipment is crap and needs an upgrade. I have a hi-performance PC at home that needs a DVD drive and probably a high end audio card to work for HTPC.


And while I am a tech person I have a bit of a problem actually using a PC for the "simple" task of creating video. Usability is an important feature that standalone DVD players have that I have a hard time giving up. Just pop your CD into the DVD and go... no hassles!


I am thinking about that Progressive Panasonic DVD (RP62 or something) that everyone is talking about. Cheap and good! But I don't know if that will be "enough" for me-- I think not. I am confused right now, so I will probably do nothing for the time being.


I posted a bit more details of my experience under the thread "DLP Headache ?????". I did see the rainbows on the LT150 but they weren't a huge issue. I am dismissing the LT150 not because of my continuing eyestrain/headache :-( but because of other "usability" issues.


I cannot live with a projector that create that much NOISE!!!! I am running this thing in my condo living room and will not build a hush box for it. It has to integrate well into my living room (visually). Also, the lack of zoom was a deal for me.... it limits placement options in my living room--- I won't have that many.

Also, the bulb life thing is a bit hard for me to buy. But I have limited light control in my living room and a huge number windows. So unless it's nightime, the low lumen output LT150 is unviewable.


The VT540 is quieter, has zoom, has 2-3 times the bulb life and a brighter picture. It's only $650 CDN more expensive than the LT150--- that's not even 1 LT150 bulb.


Good learning experience, though!


- JP
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by jpinto
I have a hi-performance PC at home that needs a DVD drive and probably a high end audio card to work for HTPC.


And while I am a tech person I have a bit of a problem actually using a PC for the "simple" task of creating video. Usability is an important feature that standalone DVD players have that I have a hard time giving up. Just pop your CD into the DVD and go... no hassles!
Just in case you don't already know you don't need a high end audio card at all. A simple $50 sound card which has a digital output is all you need and it should sound the same as any other card with a digital output.


As for usability is concerned it is almost a non-issue for me. Just add a wireless keyboard and you can have total control. Doing my best to convert you to a htpc user here :) I promise you won't regret it.
 

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of using the PC as a scaler. It makes sense with these projectors. They are inherently PC displays--just really big ones! So if you have a 1024x768 output device then feed it with a 1024x768 signal. Home video is not geared for that. It makes sense.... I don't need much convincing on that front.


For the audio card with digital output, is this the optical plug that DVD players have? I presume that the output from the PC audio card will go into my A/V stereo. Is this correct.


What about the video card--- does it need to be something incredible (3d or something)? Or will a standard 16mb Nvidia, Elsa or the like do??
 

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VT540 and LT150. How much $ did you pay to rent the pair? Who are you dealing with during your trials. Are they willing to provided loaners to you??


- JP
 

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I did a shootout about eight months ago (Gentleman Start your light engines) involving the LT150, Marantz VP 8000, Infocus LP350, Proxima DX 3 and Nec LT155 (the big brother to the 540). -head to head. Still can't believe I had all these projectors in my HT at once - wow what a weekend! It was only when the projectors were hooked into the HTPC did the differences become apparent. For me, obviously, the LT150 screamed away from the rest of the pack! The LT155 wasn't far behind, however, I am very sensitive to screendoor and that was the deal killer for me. I do think that a grey screen would "cure" that problem somewhat and I'd love to see the 540 or 155 on a grey screen. A Panamorph or ISCO II would probably also help. Rainbow isn't really an issue for me - in fact I became somewhat sensitive to it a couple of months ago, but don't see it at all anymore, even with the white segment "on"?????? - do love that 1000:1 contrast ratio!


As far as the high cost and short life span of the bulb - well, that's definitely a problem - seems the bulb cost has dropped quite abit.


Anyway, to each to their own. I have to admit if I hadn't seen the LT150 with the HTPC shown on the Da-lite Hipower I would have moved on - the internal processing is disappointing.


Now I want to see KBK's CRT - who knows maybe I'll become a convert , or would that be traitor ;).


Cheers,


Grant
 

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and that is my fault for not having a better setup when demoing a unit. I will upgrade before I demo again, because I like this technology and want to be blown away not disappointed.


The eye fatigue/headache I experienced are a big concern to me. My setup may have had something to do with it ( poor processor) but I suspect the DLP has to take some blame for it to. I may redemo the LT150Z when that arrives. I was told the LT150 is discontinued and there are few hanging around. I don't want to scramble for the last of the 150's if the 150Z is coming out.


Other than the eye strain, the noise of the unit was a concern, because I am in a condo, so I have limited control of the environment and am sensitive to ergonomic issues (ie: No hush box 4 me!)


The LT150Z is supposed to be more brighter, so that is a definite need in my bright living room. I guess every projector has a list of pros and cons that have to be matched to each individual installation.


- JP
 
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